Championing innovation at a legacy brand

Under new visionary leadership, Gibson, the 125-year-old guitar industry icon, wanted to modernize the business without cannibalizing its existing success. We worked with senior leadership to inject a culture of innovation and human-centered design that could drive change at the company while maintaining and highlighting the essence of its legacy: music, artists, and guitars.

    The Ask: Create a roadmap for business innovation

    Gibson hoped to innovate its business—everywhere from basic operations to the cutting edge Gibson Garage—and needed a blueprint. While there’s no one template for innovation, Gibson was open to change in realistic and achievable ways. The company looked to Modus for an innovation program to envision new areas of focus. The idea was to stretch Gibson outside its comfort zone while staying true to its brand identity, keeping loyal customers, attracting new ones, and protecting sales.

      Our Solution: An innovation team that sprints

      We set up two teams within Gibson: one that worked on day-to-day digital business (ecommerce, CMS, digital marketing), and the other on a comprehensive innovation program. This structure allowed Gibson to build space for fresh thinking that could move its business forward without falling behind on existing demands.

      The innovation group—named Team Explorer  after one of the company’s signature guitar models—worked on six-to-eight-week sprints tied to specific concepts. Initial ideas came by consulting with company leadership and interviewing players and artists, as well as more traditional product teams and other stakeholders. 

      Once a concept was chosen, the innovation team iterated rapidly, moving from idea to MVP in less than two months. The end result was a strategic vision, a prototype for the new product or service, customer validation findings, and a business model for scaling the new innovation into profitability. 

      During the workflow, the innovation team shared its findings and got constant feedback from the product team and executives. The rapid timeline and multiple work streams resulted in three new proprietary ideas to transform the customer experience.

        The Result: A framework for scalable innovation

        The innovation and design program supported Gibson’s aspirations to break out of routine and jumpstart a vision for its future - without losing traction on day-to-day business. Creating a separate innovation team with its own rapid timeline led to a slate of new ideas and an entirely new roadmap for future products. Generating and iterating concepts quickly galvanized the organization around a powerful vision for the future, and set Gibson up with a new framework to drive innovation in for its next 100 years.


          It was incredibly productive and exciting to collaborate with Gibson in a series of innovation sprints to explore new ways of engaging with musicians and creators to build on their 130-year legacy.

          Jay Erickson / Chief Innovation Officer / Modus

          Browse more work